This is your basic online roller derby. You have a bunch of different tracks, and a bunch of different cars. The winner is the first to make it around the track a given number of times. Emphasis here is on arcade action and fun, not realism. As an example, you can run over "powerups" to give your car a boost. Variety is also a major part of the game, since in addition to the cars and tracks, you've also got various driving conditions to deal with, more or less randomly (eg, thunderstorms).
There are two distinct categories in the racing genre. One category pushes the realism aspect over everything else. These are the Nascars and the Formula Ones -- the type where strategy and car tweaking go hand-in-hand. Then, there are those games, like Ultimate Race Pro, that scream "screw reality" and give you a balls-out, pedal-to-the-metal adrenaline rush. Thank god for democracy.
Ultimate Race Pro is the PC equivalent of Daytona or Ridge Racer in the arcades. Basically, you've got a certain time to blaze around the track, earning extra time for crossing checkpoints. There are five different locations to choose from, with day, night, and rainy conditions ¿ and each one can be raced in either direction. There's also a handful of cars with their own distinct handling, but the name of the game is power sliding. Forget letting go of the gas or slamming on the brakes, if you can't figure out how to take the curves by skidding around them at top speed, you might as well go home. You also have to watch out for the exaggerated physics engine, because one little nudge at high-speed can send your car spinning topside.
It's obvious that the developers also wanted to push 3D acceleration as hard as possible. Though the game supports software rendering, the game really struts its stuff if you've got the hardware. The final version offers support for 3Dfx, Power VR, and Direct 3D-compatible hardware, but any way you cut it, these are some pumped-up graphics. A high framerate and realistic lighting (including neat-o realtime shadows and headlight beams) are just a few of Ultimate Race Pro's impressive graphical features. If you want to wow someone with your setup, this is the game to do it with.
It would have been nice if Kalisto had also included some sort of climb-the-ladder challenge for the single players. You know something that makes you strive to be the best. Instead, you just pick a track and race it to see if you can get first place. That's it. No payoff, no "try the next stage" challenge so familiar to arcade-style games. And once you've figured out that the AI level of the computer opponents is set insanely high -- even at the easy level -- you'll be itching to get out onto the net for more realistic challenges.
Multiplayer is obviously where most of the focus lies in Ultimate Race Pro. Up to eight can go at it together, either locally or over the Internet, and this is where the game really gets entertaining. With enough people, a race can have the appeal of a top-speed game of bumper cars.
Ultimate Race Pro is an excellent arcade-style racer, and the only thing really knocking the points down on this title is its lack of focus on the single player modes. But if you've got access to a network, you're not going to find many multiplayer racing titles as much fun as this one.
People who downloaded Ultimate Race Pro have also downloaded:
Viper Racing, TrackMania Nations ESWC, Redline Racer, TOCA Race Driver (a.k.a. Pro Race Driver), Wacky Races, Total Immersion Racing, U.S. Navy Fighters, U.S. Navy Fighters Gold
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